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The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 8, 2013 Tuesday
PHILADELPHIA; P-com News Local; Pg. B05
|Coatesville group protests in Harrisburg
By Michaelle Bond and Angela Couloumbis; Inquirer Staff Writers
When the Coatesville Area School District's board voted two weeks ago to accept the resignations of two administrators who exchanged racist and sexist text messages, some residents in the packed high school auditorium said the vote wasn't the end.
On Monday, a handful of people chartered a bus to Harrisburg to tell the state Department of Education that they would accept nothing less than the firings of former Superintendent Richard Como and former high school athletic director James Donato.
Since the board's vote, the two school officials who told the board about the texts said they were being harassed; two dozen people marched to the district's headquarters to demand that the entire school board resign; and a state senator said he would introduce an amendment to the state school code to make sure no other superintendent has the option of retiring in a similar situation.
Organizers of the Harrisburg trip originally planned to fill a bus with 54 people. Jobs and prior commitments got in the way for some. So eight people boarded the 25-person bus Monday morning.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child," said Judy Mentzer-Brown, one of the trip's organizers. "A village of eight people went today and did what we felt we needed to do to help the people who don't have a voice, and right now, that's the children and the minority educators in the school district."
Soon after the group arrived at the Department of Education, it was told it had to move its protest outside the building - and into the rain.
So the group moved to the Capitol, hoping to meet with legislators, only to find that the legislature was not in session and that it was nearly impossible to even leave a message for an elected official. "We can't get anyone to listen to us about why we're here," said Teresa Smith, a mother of five children who have graduated from Coatesville schools. "This is how we feel at home. We didn't expect to come to Harrisburg to feel the same way."
Trip organizer Monique Butler has a 10th grader in the district. "I think Como and Donato, they owe the public, and mainly these kids, an apology," she said. "You're supposed to be a leader and you're talking like this? They get rewarded with still being able to resign. They get no punishment."
Drew Harris, who lives in Downingtown and works in Coatesville, said last week that he understood the outrage people felt. But he said he has accepted the school board's decision to allow the resignations and said it acted appropriately.
More protests are still to come, activists say. Some residents plan to march to the school board's committee meetings Tuesday at Coatesville Area High School, and the Pennsylvania State Conference of NAACP Branches will hold a public fact-finding hearing next Tuesday at Second Baptist Church in Coatesville, so residents who feel the school district has harmed them or their children can give statements.
October 8, 2013